For me, autumn has never been better described than by the American naturalist and writer Edwin Way Teale in his great work, “Autumn Across America.”
“There is midsummer. There is midwinter. But there is no midspring or midautumn. These are seasons of constant change. Like dawn and dusk they are periods of transition. But like night and day and day and night they merge slowly, gradually.”
And I also believe that few places in this country better illustrate Teale’s concept of autumn than our own Black Hills. Here autumn is one of many faces, many different looks and moods.
Think of it. The Black Hills measure about 120 miles from north to south and around 60 miles from east to west – a comparatively small area. And yet, within this space, we can witness the look of autumn in high country canyons and forests as well as across the meadows and grasslands of the prairie.
We can wander under the boughs of an aspen forest in Spearfish Canyon as we take in the rattling sounds of its quickly drying leaves and watch them dance overhead in the wind. Or we can marvel at the beauty of an ash grove growing along a prairie creek or a single large cottonwood standing alone in a grasslands meadow.
We can enjoy the cooling of the nights and even a brief hint of the coming winter, knowing that October will still bring some very pleasant Indian summer afternoons. At the end of a wet summer – like this year’s – we can appreciate the lingering colors of the leaves as they seem to hang on forever before finally decorating the banks of a lakeshore or meandering river.
The first and foremost rule of nature is change – nothing is forever. Autumn is change and should be viewed as opportunity. The bighorn ram and elk bull see the possibilities as this is the time of year in which they sow the seeds for their own future.